It’s been seven months since Kyrie Irving stood on the parquet floor of TD Garden, gripping a microphone while addressing a crowd of Boston Celtics season-ticket holders, and declared he planned on re-signing with the organization.
The crowd erupted.
This was nothing more than a verbal commitment. Nothing was binding. Yet this was exactly what Celtics fans wanted to hear. They wanted to believe that it wouldn’t change, that Irving had effectively ended the ongoing speculation surrounding his upcoming free agency.
Fast forward four months.
Irving is sitting on the sideline of the Madison Square Garden court. A throng of reporters surrounds him. The Celtics, considered the preseason favorite in the Eastern Conference, had failed to meet those expectations. The Knicks, long considered a potential destination for Irving, the previous day completed a blockbuster trade that created enough cap space to offer two max contracts this summer.
The spotlight was back on Irving’s future. He was asked if he still planned on staying in Boston.
“Ask me July 1,” Irving said.
The Celtics ultimately finished the season fourth in the Eastern Conference amid ongoing reports of Irving’s discontent. Now Irving is mired in a playoff slump, drawing the ire of many of those same fans who were euphoric at the thought of him in a Celtics uniform long term, and Boston is facing elimination in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Despite Irving’s assertion that he planned on staying, nothing was ever certain about where he would play next season. Now it’s even more uncertain, leaving fans of several teams questioning if they’d even want the moody star.
Regardless, the Knicks are going to remain in the conversation to sign the star point guard. That’s especially true if convincing Irving to call Madison Square Garden home becomes a requirement to sign the real prize of this free agency class: Kevin Durant.
If that’s the case, then Irving’s exit in the conference semifinals could be just what the Knicks need.
Or the Nets.
Brooklyn has cap space, too. It plans on being a major player in free agency. The Nets were already a playoff team this season after years of losing. Irving could see Brooklyn as a more favorable destination.
Maybe he thinks he’d be better off in Los Angeles, playing for Doc Rivers and the Clippers. Or maybe, in a more unlikely scenario, teaming back up with LeBron James with the Lakers.
No one really knows what Irving’s future is. At this point, it’s all speculation.
But it certainly seems like Irving’s days with the Celtics are ending, and ending quickly.
His own play hasn’t helped. Entering Game 5 Wednesday night, Irving has shot just 30.6 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range in his previous three games.
It’s a slump that came at the worst time possible for the Celtics.
Irving shot 7-of-22 in Game 4, and afterward, said he should’ve taken 30 shots.
“I’m that great of a shooter,” Irving told reporters.
Irving wanted off the Cavaliers because he no longer wanted to play second fiddle to LeBron. He wanted his own team, so Cleveland traded him to the Celtics.
In his first season in Boston, Irving suffered a knee injury that kept him out of the playoffs. The Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals without him.
This time around, Irving is healthy.
But he’s struggling.
Teaming up with Durant could appeal to him, whether that’s with the Knicks, Nets or Clippers.
With Irving poised to hit the open market in less than two months, that preseason commitment seems like a distant memory.
Irving’s season in Boston didn’t go as planned. The Celtics’ struggles could turn into another team’s summer success.
A lot has changed in seven months.